Electricity is something we often take for granted. Because it’s so intertwined into our daily lives, from powering your smartphone to providing lighting in even the most obscure locations, we can often forget the dangers that come with it. When not properly installed or respected, there are significant risks of injury or fire from electrical hazards.
May has been designated as National Electrical Safety Month. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) uses the month to raise awareness about electrical safety hazards both on the job site and at home. This year, they’re focus is on the importance of understanding electrical safety precautions when preparing, weathering, and rebuilding after a natural disaster.
Electrical Safety in the Workplace
Live electrical contact is a leading cause of workplace injuries and fatalities, with nearly 4,000 injuries and 300 deaths each year. This is why it’s important to talk about electrical safety as part of your daily safety protocols. Here are a few key things to keep in mind while working:
- Never overload electrical circuits. Extension cords plugged into power strips that are connected in series with other strips is a common, but significant risk. Not only is this practice is a regulatory violation, it can also cause a fire.
- All electrical panels and equipment should have penetrations properly sealed, making sure there are no exposed wires or access points into live electrical exposures. To avoid injury, equipment should not be opened by employees unless they have received the proper training.
- Proper training to understand the energy sources of equipment is required when providing service or maintenance or when troubleshooting equipment. Lockout/tagout processes should be followed by anyone involved in, or affected by these tasks.
- Inspect any tears or frayed connections leading into corded tools or electrical equipment. These can lead to exposure points and result in live electrical contact. Also, always ensure that equipment is unplugged before attempting to change tooling or perform repairs.
Natural Disasters and Electrical Safety
High winds, rain, flooding, and lightning can disturb the secure installation and status of electrical equipment. Being proactive and having a plan in place can help mitigate the effects of the event. Electrical safety needs to be a top priority during these times here are a few reminders when a natural disaster strikes:
- Never touch downed power lines, and always assume the lines are still live. Stay at least 35 feet away, and report the downed power lines as soon you see them.
- If equipment was submerged, it can present injury or damage risk even after the flooding has subsided. Always have a qualified electrician perform inspections prior to using equipment.
- When working near wet conditions, a GFCI should always be used with any electrical tooling.
- Make sure generation equipment is installed properly and carbon monoxide detectors are operable. Never use a generator inside your home or in an enclosed location as a large majority of carbon monoxide deaths are associated with improper generator use.
Always Keep Electrical Hazards Top of Mind
Whether you’re on a job site, sitting at an office desk, or in your own home, electrical exposure could be present. Make sure you understand how to approach a situation and prevent injury or death from electrical contact. Although May is designated as Electrical Safety Month, you should observe proper electrical safety behaviors every single day.